In a recent spate of tweets, Republicans have been calling for President Donald Trump to grant clemency to National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, with some believing his pardon is near.
Putting Snowden’s act in perspective, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) defended the whistleblower’s revelations while calling for a pardon and branding James Clapper, then Director of National Intelligence, a liar.
“James Clapper brazenly lied to Congress denying that the Deep State was spying on all Americans,” wrote Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). “@Snowden simply revealed Clapper’s lies and exposed unconstitutional spying. He deserves a pardon from @realDonaldTrump!”
“James Clapper even admitted he lied to congress when he said ‘I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner by saying ‘no,”” wrote Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), highlighting Paul’s earlier tweet.
Amen. James Clapper even admitted he lied to congress when he said "I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner by saying 'no,'" https://t.co/Tp5WfGvtIS
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) December 14, 2020
“Now is the time to pardon Snowden,” he added.
Clapper was asked under oath at a Senate Intelligence Committee meeting in 2013 whether the NSA collects data on millions of Americans to which he replied, “No, sir.”
Yet documents leaked by Snowden demonstrate that Clapper likely gave false testimony to Congress. Clapper has since admitted he testified in the “least untruthful manner’ he could think of.” Later, Clapper claimed he did not fully comprehend the question.
News anchor Alex Salvi shared a clip highlighting Clapper’s dishonesty, which Snowden shared.
Sen. Wyden: “Does NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”
James Clapper: “No sir … Not wittingly.”
9th Circuit in Sept: NSA’s Warrantless data collection (exposed by Snowden) violated FISA & Constitution.pic.twitter.com/KG5p25IKiv
— Alex Salvi (@alexsalvinews) December 13, 2020
“President Trump is listening to the many of us who are urging him to #PardonSnowden,” wrote Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). “It’s the right thing to do.”
President Trump is listening to the many of us who are urging him to #PardonSnowden
It’s the right thing to do. https://t.co/5roORsl9W6
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) December 13, 2020
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who originally helped Snowden reveal that the intelligence agency was spying on millions of Americans’ phone and Internet records, explained precisely why the president was considering the pardon.
“For those who still can’t comprehend why Trump twice said he was strongly considering a pardon of Snowden, it’s because — as he’s explains — he feels personally aggrieved by the precise abuses of power that Snowden risked his liberty to expose,” he wrote, adding that the chance of a pardon from the Biden/Harris administration was “basically zero.”
For those who still can't comprehend why Trump twice said he was strongly considering a pardon of Snowden, it's because — as he's explains — he feels personally aggrieved by the precise abuses of power that Snowden risked his liberty to expose.https://t.co/swUgfxKIIz pic.twitter.com/mDPqT185V2
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) December 13, 2020
He also branded liberals hypocritical for wanting a pardon for Reality Winner, an NSA whistleblower found guilty of leaking classified intelligence about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“That’s what makes these liberals even worse,” he wrote. “They insist Snowden should be imprisoned for life because he criminally leaked top secret docs against the orders of the security state, but they want Winner pardoned even though she did the same, because it benefited them politically.”
As Greenwald notes, not everyone is eager to see the former NSA contractor pardoned.
“Edward Snowden is a traitor,” exclaimed Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY). “He is responsible for the largest and most damaging release of classified info in US history.”
“He handed over US secrets to Russian and Chinese intelligence putting our troops and our nation at risk,” she added. “Pardoning him would be unconscionable.”
Cheney’s tweet received harsh replies.
“@Liz_Cheney is an abject liar,” blasted Greenwald. “She says Snowden ‘handed over US secrets to Russian and Chinese intelligence’ because she comes from a family of liars & her career rests solely on her father, one of this century’s worst liars.”
“The Cheney ideology supporting forever wars puts more troops at risk than @snowden ever did,” wrote Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL).
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) December 14, 2020
“Edward Snowden betrayed his country, providing exceptionally sensitive intelligence to China & Russia,” wrote former Obama CIA Director John Brennan, as he lashed out at Paul for supporting a pardon.
“You consistently demonstrate utter ignorance of U.S. national security,” he wrote in a message to Paul. “You disgrace the Senate.”
Jim Clapper has had a lifetime of dedicated & selfless service to America.
Edward Snowden betrayed his country, providing exceptionally sensitive intelligence to China & Russia.
You consistently demonstrate utter ignorance of U.S. national security.
You disgrace the Senate. https://t.co/FO0FmmJZ8x
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) December 14, 2020
Greenwald was quick to reply to Brennan.
“You hate Snowden because he exposed your crimes,” the investigative journalist wrote.
For many, Trump is seen as Snowden’s only hope for an imminent pardon as a Biden/Harris administration is far less likely to do so, just as former President Barack Obama refused requests to pardon him while in office.
In an interview with MSNBC last year, Snowden revealed that though he applied for asylum in 27 countries, Biden had allegedly threatened them in the event they granted it to him.
“[E]very time one of these governments got close to opening their doors, the phone would ring in their foreign ministries and on the other end of the line would be a very senior American official,” he said. “It was one of two people, then Secretary of State John Kerry or then Vice President Joe Biden.”
“And they would say, ’look, we don’t [care] what the law is, we don’t care if you can do this or not, we understand that protecting whistleblowers and granting asylum is a matter of human rights and you could do this if you want to, but if you protect this man, if you let this guy out of Russia, there will be consequences,’” he added.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.